Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FCC Closes Review of Stephen Colbert Comments

Broadcasting & Cable's John Eggerton (@eggerton) reports that the FCC has closed its review of the thousands of indecency complaints filed with the Commission after Stephen Colbert's "colorful criticisms" of President Trump. As Mr. Eggerton puts it, the agency's action closing the investigation was not surprising, "though the speed with which it reached that conclusion was noteworthy."
Here is what the FCC said:
"The FCC received thousands of complaints about the May 1 broadcast of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints," said an FCC spokesperson. "The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC's rules."
It's good that the FCC acted to close the investigation without further delay. Mr. Colbert's remarks may have been tasteless -- at least they were for my taste -- but they were not obscene and did not violate the Commission's indecency rules. Given that the Commission under Ajit Pai's leadership is looking, justifiably, to reduce unnecessary regulation in other areas, it would not have made sense to let the complaints sit at the agency as some sort of sword of Damocles that might have the effect of chilling free speech.
Many of the FCC's existing program access, "must carry," media ownership, and like regulations are problematical under the First Amendment's free speech guarantee. No need for the agency to raise First Amendment questions by going down a rabbit hole chasing an indecency complaint that is not actionable.